December 15, 2014
BitTorrent, known for its peer-to-peer file sharing service, has unveiled a new Web browser, Maelstrom, that could take Web content from centralized servers to a network of shared torrents. A browser that utilizes a peer-to-peer network makes downloading large files faster and keeps files off a cloud that could be surveyed by the government or hacked by cyber criminals. Maelstrom could also supplement existing browsers to take the load off of other networks.
Maelstrom was created as a new way to publish and access content online. BitTorrent CEO Eric Klinker describes it as an “Internet powered by the people.” The people currently powering it include a select group of invitation-only alpha testers. They will help BitTorrent determine the type of content they want from this type of browser.
BitTorrent suggests that Maelstrom could be an alternative distribution method for online services that eat up data. This is a particularly attractive option for businesses that may be affected by net neutrality rules that slow down their transmission of data. Maelstrom would be a more neutral gatekeeper because the service cannot identify where the traffic is coming from.
The other major benefit of a torrent-powered browser is the security. Files never sit in a centralized server or even a cloud, both of which are vulnerable to hackers and government surveillance. The files stay local.
BitTorrent has used this same type of local sharing network to develop an array of new services within the past few years, according to TechCrunch. Sync, for example, is a product from BitTorrent that allows people to share media between devices. And BitTorrent Bundles give content creators the ability to distribute and sell their work.
All of these services, including Maelstrom, are part of a rebranding strategy to change people’s attitudes about BitTorrent, which is known for illicit content sharing.